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6 Pittsburgh Pirates For young outfielders, starting roles are abundant (minimal experience needed)

April 05, 2004
April 05, 2004

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April 5, 2004

Baseball Preview 2004

6 Pittsburgh Pirates For young outfielders, starting roles are abundant (minimal experience needed)

Outfielders Jason Bay and Tike Redman are a study in contrasts.
Bay, a sturdy power hitter, grew up in the western Canadian
hamlet of Trail, B.C.; Redman, a wiry, line-drive-hitting
speedster, was raised on a farm in rural Duncanville, Ala. Bay's
an introvert who's a regular reader of Wine magazine; Redman is a
brash motormouth who's addicted to PlayStation. Bay often listens
to Andrea Bocelli as part of his pregame ritual; Redman prefers
Tupac.

This is an article from the April 5, 2004 issue

In a clubhouse littered with middling minor leaguers and
journeymen, Bay, 25, and Redman, 27, do have something in common:
Together they are the foundation on which the Pirates hope to
rebuild a franchise that's suffered through 11 straight losing
seasons. During that stretch makeovers in Pittsburgh have been
seen as frequently as they are on Bravo, and 2003 was no
exception: Since last year's All-Star break the Pirates, who have
lost $30 million since the 2001 opening of PNC Park, have
jettisoned a slugging third baseman (Aramis Ramirez), the
steadiest pitcher in the rotation (Jeff Suppan) and three
outfielders who have been All-Stars (Brian Giles, Kenny Lofton
and Reggie Sanders). Pittsburgh will try to cobble together a
winner with a $35 million payroll, down $20 million from last
year.

"I was in uniform [as a Pirate] the last time we had a winning
season. Nobody loses more sleep over that than me," says
45-year-old manager Lloyd McClendon, who has overseen a modest
increase in victories--from 62 to 72 to 75--over the past three
seasons. "For us to continue to improve, we need our young
players to grow up fast. Most places you can get your feet wet a
little, but here you've got to dive right in."

Ready for the plunge are Bay and Redman, who, despite having
played only 83 games between them with Pittsburgh last year,
entered this spring with starting jobs secured. Bay will hit in
the middle of the order and play leftfield, while Redman will bat
leadoff and patrol center. They earned those spots by nailing
their late-season auditions in 2003. Bay, acquired from the
Padres in an Aug. 27 trade for Giles, hit .291 in 27 games and
revealed a tantalizing glimpse of his power in a mid-September
game, homering twice and driving in eight runs. He also stole 23
bases in 91 games with Triple A Portland last year, and McClendon
touts him as a 30-30 threat. "What impresses me most about Jason
is that he's constantly making adjustments at the plate," says
the skipper. "He's young, but he's one of the smartest hitters we
have."

Redman, a Pirates fifth-round pick in 1996, began the season in
Triple A Nashville before being called up in August. In 56 games
he batted .330 and scored 36 runs; his 76 hits over the last two
months tied the Blue Jays' Vernon Wells for most in the majors in
that span. Bay and Redman have quickly developed into strong
fielders as well. Redman's improvement in center has been most
profound; he says he embarrassed himself with his shoddy glove
work during his first extended stint in the majors (37 games), in
2001. "I was scared out there in the field, constantly thinking,
Don't hit it to me, and that if I made one mistake, I was going
back to the minors," says Redman. "Really, the only difference
between the me now and the me back then is that the fear's gone.
Last year was the first time I truly believed I belonged with
this team."

Big things are expected from Bay and Redman, but McClendon's
highest expectations are for his young staff, which is anchored
by two hard-throwing--if underachieving--righthanders, Kris
Benson and Kip Wells. Pitching coach Spin Williams has been
working with them to add more off-speed options to their
repertoires. The rotation's biggest surprise could be lefty
Oliver Perez, who was acquired from San Diego in the Giles trade.
"With him, it's all about getting his mechanics together," says
Williams, who this spring was salivating over Perez's 96 mph
fastball and wicked slider. "Every pitch he throws seems to be
thrown at a different arm angle, and we're working to get that
changed. Once that happens, watch out."

The Pirates will be tested early: Nine of their first 22 games
are against division heavyweights Chicago and Houston. McClendon,
though, isn't concerning himself with the stiff competition in
his division and where his team will finish. "All we can do," he
says, "is put the blinds down, do the best we can and keep going
forward." --A.C.

COLOR PHOTO: CHRIS BERNACCHI/SPORTPICS IN A HURRY After feeling he didn't belong in the majors during his previous call-up, Redman hit the ground running last year.COLOR PHOTO: JED JACOBSOHN/GETTY IMAGES PEREZ

IN FACT

Raul Mondesi's six 20 HR-20 SB seasons are more than any other
active player's except Barry Bonds's 10.

ENEMY LINES
an opposing team's scout sizes up the Pirates

"I FEEL for general manager Dave Littlefield. They're not drawing,
and their budget is low. There's no way they can afford to keep
Kris Benson and Jason Kendall; the key in trading them will be to
get back three to four major-league-caliber players.... Everyone
would love to have Benson, who can be a top-of-the-rotation guy.
Kendall used to be good defensively, but injuries have affected
his footwork. There'd be a bigger market for him if he weren't so
highly paid [$42 million over the next four years].... With a
sharp breaking ball and a slurvy slider, Oliver Perez has been
lights out this spring and has the ability to be an ace. Jose
Mesa will qualify for his AARP card pretty soon, but he still
throws hard.... They're awful at second base, where Bobby Hill
will hold the job until Freddy Sanchez's ankle injury heals. Hill
should be ranked 30th among the 30 starters there.... They needed
a home run threat, so they got Raul Mondesi, who'll play hard....
Tike Redman is listed at 5'11", and if he's 5'11", I'm 6'8".
He'll need to steal 40 bases for them to score any runs."

THE LINEUP
projected roster with 2003 statistics

BATTING ORDER

CF Redman
SS J. Wilson
C Kendall
RF Mondesi
1B Simon
LF Bay
3B Stynes
2B Hill

JASON BAY

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

R 101 .287 4 14 3

TIKE REDMAN

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

L 66 .330 3 19 7

RAUL MONDESI
New acquisition

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

R 48 .272 24 71 22

CHRIS STYNES
New acquisition

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

R 261 .255 11 73 3

JACK WILSON

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

R 188 .256 9 62 3

BOBBY HILL*

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

S-R 275 .269 7 44 9

RANDALL SIMON
New acquisition

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

L 138 .276 16 72 0

JASON KENDALL

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

R 118 .325 6 58 8

BENCH

CRAIG WILSON

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

R 212 .262 18 48 3

ROB MACKOWIAK

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

L-R 280 .230 2 23 7

ROTATION

PITCHER PVR W L IPS WHIP ERA

RH Kip Wells 44 10 9 6.4 1.25 3.28
RH Kris Benson 133 5 9 5.8 1.55 4.97
RH Josh Fogg 92 10 9 5.5 1.45 5.26
LH Oliver Perez 196 4 10 5.3 1.63 5.47
RH Ryan Vogelsong 198 2 2 4.2 1.77 6.55

BULLPEN

PITCHER PVR W L S WHIP ERA

RH Jose Mesa 108 5 7 24 1.76 6.52
New acquisition
RH Brian Boehringer 280 5 4 0 1.51 5.49
LH Joe Beimel 297 1 3 0 1.64 5.05

New acquisition
(R) Rookie
B-T: Bats-throws
IPS: Innings pitched per start
WHIP: Walks plus hits per inning pitched
*Triple A stats
PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 142)

2003 RECORD
75-87
fourth in NL Central

MANAGER
Lloyd McClendon
fourth season with Pittsburgh